SLR 80, Coke 89

On: 03 July 2008

PBA Fiesta Cup

Donald Copeland saved his best for last, and the Coca-Cola Tigers, at last, nailed elusive win No. 10.

Copeland erupted for 32 points in his farewell game on local soil, leading the Tigers to an 89-80 victory over the Sta. Lucia Realtors that kept the team’s flickering hopes for an outright semifinals seat in the 2008 Smart PBA Fiesta Conference.

The Tigers closed out their stint in the double-round eliminations tied with the Magnolia Beverage Masters at 10-8.

All they can do from today up to Sunday is to pray as they hope to nail a playoff crack at the second outright semifinals seat.

Another thing the Tigers have to pray for is an early replacement for Copeland, who has to cut short his stint with the team to attend to a custody case in the US.

The 5-foot-9 import, however, dished out his most explosive game for Coca-Cola before leaving, dealing the Realtors much damage as they bombed out of contention for an outright seat in the quarterfinals.

"Win No. 10 proved to be very elusive. We’d been going after it for weeks. Tonight, the Xs and Os fell secondary for us as we talked about playing loose and just enjoying the game. We did that and that proved to be the key," said Coca-Cola coach Binky Favis.

"Now, we have another job to do which is a quick search for a replacement to Donald. Everything is iffy in the next three days," Favis also said.

The Tigers went 3-5 (win-loss) with Copeland – the team’s third small import after Calvin Cage and Gee Gervin.

Copeland asserted himself in his farewell game, going 2-of-3 from the three-point area, 12-of-18 from the two-point zone and 2-of-2 from the stripe in 40 minutes of action.

He rifled in seven points in the final quarter, including a booming trey off Denok Miranda, making it 85-79 for the Tigers with only 59 seconds to play.

In this important game, Favis rotated only eight players who all responded well to the challenge.

Jason Dixon had a double-double game with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Alex Cabagnot added 17 points, while Asi Taulava and Nic Belasco combined for 29 rebounds, five points and four assists.

Lee Benson endured a slight strained calf and led the Realtors with 18 points and 18 rebounds. But he had a turnover and a missed shot that hastened the Realtors’ downfall in the homestretch.

Copeland was perfect (8-of-8) from the two-point zone and 1-of-2 from the three-point area in the first half.

The entire Coca-Cola team converted 44.4 percent of their shots against Sta. Lucia’s 33.3-percent clip as the Tigers seized a 43-39 lead at the turn.

Letting Copeland do much of the scoring, Dixon, Belasco and Taulava did the job on rebounding, combining for 26 of the team’s 31 caroms compared to Sta. Lucia’s 21 in the opening half. (Source: PBA Site)

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